Canadian Screen Awards: Predictions and Picks

I need to start this article with a genuine nod of “Well done!” to the Academy for their effort this year. The Canadian Screen Awards show signs of significant improvement as they move through to their third year. This week’s first wave of kudos across television and digital media includes worthy winners such as Tales from the Organ Trade, Our Man in Tehran, and A History of the Highrise. The film front, moreover, is a strong celebration of Canadian movies. The award show is helping these films reach audiences so that Canadians may appreciate the strong work coming out from our own filmmakers. It’s one thing to spotlight Canadian content, but the effort is far more effective when audiences celebrate Canadian films that are great movies regardless of their origin, and this year’s Canadian Screen Awards lets us do exactly that.

Julianne Moore in Maps to the Stars
Sunday’s awards ceremony on CBC also looks to be the biggest and best so far as host Andrea Martin joins the most impressive crop of presenters (including Oscar winner and CSA nominee Julianne Moore and “24” star Kiefer Sutherland) to honour the strongest batch of films that the Canadian Academy has recognized so far. It’s a worthy field of films to encapsulate the strong year that Canada has had since Cannes. The duo of Cannes winners Mommy and Maps to the Stars are the obvious frontrunners while commercial hit Pompeii should also have a big night for its impressive technical work.
Cast No Shadow
The only significant blind spots in my coverage are the Best Picture nominee Cast No Shadow (a hit in the Maritimes and on the festival circuit) and Atom Egoyan’s The Captive, which opened theatrically during TIFF and was gone by the time I finished covering the Ottawa International Animation Festival. It didn’t have an Ottawa sneak peek and I just didn’t see the point in pursuing a screener from a publicist given the film’s toxic reception at Cannes. The Captive is bound to garner the most derision for its presence at Sunday’s awards, but it’s not a surprise nominee thanks to Ryan Reynolds’ reportedly strong performance and Atom Egoyan’s default status with the Academy. I think I’ve actually seen more nominees across the dramatic, documentary, and shorts categories in the Canadian kudos than I did during Oscar completism, and every one of the films I’ve seen deserves to be here.

Predicting the awards is something entirely else, since Canada (thankfully) doesn’t have the mania or campaign culture of the Oscars. (The films rarely recoup their budgets, so why splurge on ads and swag?) And we only have the Vancouver and Toronto film critics’ gongs to go on as precursors, but they’re so full of contenders from last year’s awards that they can’t be too reliable, although they show lots of love for five-time CSA winner Enemy.

Let’s see which of said films could or should win on Sunday night!


Best Film

The nominees: Cast No Shadow, Fall, In Her Place, Maps to the Stars, Mommy, Tu Dors Nicole

This year’s show is all about Mommy, but any of the other nominees could have enjoyed a clean sweep any other year. Mommy looks to be the sixth film to triumph at the Screenies after a long award season push that began with its selection as Canada’s official submission for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards. It should have gone all the way (or at least as far as nominees Incendies, Monsieur Lazhar, and Rebelle did), but Sunday’s likely Best Picture win should make things right.

Oddly enough, the pattern of seeing Canada’s Oscar pick mirror Canada’s top film award stops with Mommy director Xavier Dolan’s first flirtation with awards fame when his debut I Killed My Mother was infamously shut out after being the most acclaimed and high-profile Canadian film on the festival circuit that year. Canada has been curiously reluctant to embrace the young director—I’ll admit that I’ve been slow to warm to Dolan’s films myself—as Dolan’s amassed nothing but a win for Best Costume Design for 2012’s Laurence Anyways and even his few detractors must admit that he’s consistently brought more attention to the Canadian film scene than any other contemporary filmmaker, or he’s at least in the top tier with Sarah Polley, Denis Villeneuve, and Jean-Marc Vallée, although the latter two have the advantage of directing major American films to up their profiles. Dolan’s arguably due, and Mommy, his best film to date, is too big a critical and commercial juggernaut to ignore. The film boasts nearly three and a half million dollars in Canadian box office revenue alone, which is doubly impressive given its emotionally exhausting length and unconventional 1:1 aspect ratio.

If any film has the chance to best Mommy, it’s probably Maps to the Stars from Canadian veteran David Cronenberg. Maps marks Cronenberg’s strongest Canadian film in over a decade, and its hearty crop of eleven nominations (including a grand five for acting) make it a significant competitor, even if the film hasn’t had nearly as much commercial or critical success as Mommy has outside of the attention brought by Julianne Moore’s sensational lead performance.
In Her Place

The festival hits that round out the category all seem less likely for a variety of reasons. Cast No Shadow, which, as mentioned above, is a hit in the Maritimes and on the festival circuit, but it’s at a disadvantage as the only nominee that hasn’t screened in almighty Toronto. Toronto, on the other hand, loves Albert Shin’s excellent In Her Place, which is a powerful and understated character drama. In Her Place has passionate fans in the critical community, whereas Mommy and Maps bring a strange level of disdain from the loudest voices in the Toronto film/Twitter troll world, but both Mommy and Maps have defined the year for Canadian film scene after debuting to rave reviews at Cannes (as did fellow nominee Tu dors Nicole) and sustaining themselves throughout the season. Place is a dark horse, but there’s no denying that Mommy is the movie of the moment.

Will Win: Mommy
I’d vote for: Mommy
Shoulda been there: Wet Bum

Will Dolan get what's due?

Best Director

The nominees: Atom Egoyan, The Captive; Albert Shin, In Her Place; David Cronenberg, Maps to the Stars; Xavier Dolan, Mommy; Stéphane Lafleur, Tu dors Nicole.

The difference between Mommy and Maps is the excitement of seeing an emerging filmmaker hit his stride or a seasoned master returning to what he does best. Take your pick. Cronenberg has a whopping six Best Director wins from the Academy, plus a Lifetime Achievement Award last year, so it’s hard to compare the two filmmakers and make a case that Dolan doesn’t receive the award on merit alone. Dolan’s long overdue and Cronenberg could win if voters continue to resist new directors, which remains a notable gap in the Academy’s history. However, Mommy’s undeniable success (and Cannes endorsement) makes it far more attractive to welcome him to the club, and the film truly feels like the culmination of a new talent harnessing his skills to the best of his abilities while using the medium to create a film that’s original and outside the box, yet bracingly moving and freeing. It’s his undisputable entry into the hall of great Canadian filmmakers and the history books should reflect that.

Shin and Lafleur, on the other hand, are welcome additions to the field and can expect lots of love in the years to come for their fine hands at drama and comedy, respectably. Egoyan, finally, probably takes the nomination as an award (and perhaps vindication) in itself.

Will Win: Xavier Dolan, Mommy
I’d vote for: Xavier Dolan, Mommy

Anne Dorval in Mommy

Best Actress

The nominees: Julianne Côté, Tu dors Nicole; Anne Dorval, Mommy; Yoon Da Kyung, In Her Place; Ahn Ji Hye, In Her Place; Julianne Moore, Maps to the Stars.

Is this the strongest Best Actress line-up we’ve ever had? I think so! It’s a testament to these performances that great turns by Hadas Yaron (Felix and Meira), Susan Sarandon (The Calling) and Marilyn Castonguay (Miraculum) aren’t present, and any one poses a worthy win. But let’s assume that the performers from In Her Place will cancel themselves out—Yoon Da Kyung gives the better and more dynamic performance as the woman awaiting a new child, while the heartbreaking Ahn Ji Hye plays a far more sympathetic character—and that Côté’s fine comedic turn as the titular Nicole simply isn’t flashy enough to trump either of the two powerhouse performances leading the pack. (The real star of Nicole is the script and the direction.) It’s a nice comedic turn, but Moore’s batshit crazy performance in Maps to the Stars works on a whole other level.

Part of me assumes that Julianne Moore wouldn’t have been asked to present and join the party if she weren’t taking home the prize, but Anne Dorval has the home field advantage and a lot of love that’s been building in the Canadian film community since Cannes. Moore’s Cannes win and her success for Still Alice probably work in Dorval’s favour, too, since it’s hard to look at one actress and see that she’s been widely recognized for her work while the other has not. Both performances are excellent, and neither film would have the same power without them, so it’s a tough call. I love, love, love Julianne Moore’s insane performance in Maps to the Stars, but Anne Dorval’s pure, raw, heartbreaking performance simply too grand an event to ignore. Dorval is the life force of Mommy and her performance as Die is the best by any actor from any country in 2014. Moore’s had her turn on the podium, now Dorval gets hers.

Will Win: Anne Dorval, Mommy
I’d vote for: Anne Dorval, Mommy
Shoulda been there: Marilyn Castonguay, Miraculum

Michael Murphy in Fall

Best Actor

The nominees: Evan Bird, Maps to the Stars; Bruce Greenwood, Elephant Song; Michael Murphy, Fall; Antoine Olivier Pilon, Mommy; Ryan Reynolds, The Captive.

This race is a tough call! Evan Bird nearly steals the show from Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska, and the rest of the star-studded ensemble of Maps to the Stars with his performance as a Justin Bieber-y spoiled actor. That’s an award in itself for the fourteen-year-old actor, who certainly deserves this nomination for his breakthrough work. (Despite some murmurings to the contrary, it’s arguably the largest male role of the film.) Reynolds, on the other hand, probably can’t overcome the hate for The Captive no matter how good his performance is and won’t have the same benefit of exposure as his fellow nominees.

Best Actor is probably a tight three-way race between Mommy’s wild child Antoine Olivier Pilon, Fall’s subtly powerful Michael Murphy, and Elephant Song’s resolute Bruce Greenwood. There’s no easy call to be had since Pilon’s OCD performance as Steve could be seen as too histrionic for some viewers (but that’s exactly the point…), while Murphy’s nuanced turn could be too invisible for others. Greenwood, finally, appears in the weakest film in the bunch, and Elephant Song’s relatively poor showing (it missed out on potential nominations for the performances by Xavier Dolan, Catherine Keener, and Carrie-Anne Moss) probably doesn’t bode well for him. If it comes down to the either of the newcomers and the veteran Murphy, Fall’s presence in the Best Film race is largely due to his performance and suggests a great deal of support. Murphy masterfully underplays his turn as Father Sam in Fall and carries enough moral anguish to trump the showier work of his competitors. Fall has the disadvantage, though, of having a small festival run and an even smaller run in theatres, so the quiet power of Murphy’s performance can’t match the pace of Pilon’s larger-than-life turn, which can afford to have a few detractors given the massive reach of the film.

Will Win: Antoine Olivier Pilon, Mommy
I’d vote for: Michael Murphy, Fall

Suzanne Clémnt in Mommy

Best Supporting Actress

The nominees: Sandrine Bisson, 1987; Suzanne Clément, Mommy; Catherine St. Laurent, Tu dors Nicole; Mia Wasikowska, Maps to the Stars; Kil-Hae Yeon, In Her Place.

Can we talk about Suzanne Clément for a minute? She should have won by a landslide for Laurence Anyways, but her sensational work was swept aside in the curious landslide of ten wins for Rebelle in 2013. I like Rebelle and all that, but that year shows how much of an edge the Oscar submission tends to have on the competition at the CSAs. (I mean, the film was shot outside and it won Best Art Direction!) Anyways, Clément benefits from being in the one film that most Screenie voters probably saw this year and while her terrific work in Mommy isn’t quite the same jaw-dropper of a performance that Laurence Anyways is, she’s still the standout in this strong category by a mile. She deserves this for her shattering turn as Kyla, whose insecurity and stuttering could have been fatal caricature in less talented hands. (Her powerful cameo in Fall is bound to be good for a few votes, too.) A good case can be made for most of the other nominees: Sandrine Bisson (a hoot!) and Catherine St. Laurent (likable) are great comedic presences, while Mia Wasikowska (excellent) and Kil-Hae Yeon (devastating) give their films strong finishes that could keep them fresh in the minds of voters. There’s no comparing, though: Clément easily has this. She should, anyways.

Will Win: Suzanne Clément, Mommy
I’d vote for: Suzanne Clément, Mommy
Shoulda been there: Anne Dorval, Miraculum

Best Supporting Actor

The nominees: Justin Chatwin, Bang Bang Baby; John Cusack, Maps to the Stars; Kris Demeanor, The Valley Below; Marc-André Grondin, Maps to the Stars; Robert Pattinson, Maps to the Stars.

I’ll admit that this category surprises me a bit. Xavier Dolan could have added two nominations to his tally with Miraculum and Elephant Song, but nobody saw Miraculum and Bruce Greenwood outshines him in Elephant so Dolan just has to content himself with a quintet of nominations for his work on Mommy. Stephen McHattie’s absence for Meetings with a Young Poet is also curious since the little-seen film managed five nominations in the crafts and technical categories, but not in the acting department even though his performance is the best thing about the film. Justin Chatwin’s Bang Bang Baby (one of the few nominees that I haven’t seen) still carries labels like ‘polarizing,’ ‘divisive,’ and ‘love-it-or-hate-it’ following its TIFF premiere, so he’s a mild surprise here even though director Jeffrey St. Jules was named the winner of the Claude Jutra award for Most Promising Filmmaker. Reviews for both Chatwin and Jane Levy are top notch, though, as is praise for the film’s originality of vision.

Kris Demeanor is also another surprise here for his performance in The Valley Below, which flew under the radar with some strong word of mouth at TIFF. Having just caught the film, I can say that Demeanor’s powerful turn as a man battling the demons of alcoholism is definitely worthy of recognition. (Check back for a full review of The Valley Below next week.) The actor and former poet laureate from Calgary is a standout in a great ensemble that might have better deserved a pair of Supporting Actor nominations since co-star Stephen Bogaert is equally worthy for his performance as a taxidermist in the midst of an existential crisis. The Valley Below, like In Her Place, is one of the most pleasant surprises among the nominees: Demeanor’s a dark horse for sure.

It’s hard to compete, though, with the pair of major star wattage in this category thanks to Maps to the Stars. The Cronenberg film boasts a pair of nominations for John Cusack and Robert Pattinson, but, unlike the Best Actress nominees for In Her Place, I doubt the Maps men are at risk for cancelling each other out since their film is the only contender here with an especially wide reach. Cusack has the bigger and showier role, but Robert Pattinson is stronger in his brief performance as a chauffeur with dreams of making it big. Their biggest competition is Marc-André Grondin, whose fun performance in Tu Dors Nicole jives perfectly with Stéphane Lafleur’s deadpan direction and could bring the film its only prize of the night.

Will Win: John Cusack, Maps to the Stars
I’d vote for: Robert Pattinson, Maps to the Stars
Shoulda been there: Stephen McHattie, Meetings with a Young Poet; Stephen Bogaert, The Valley Below; Julien Poulin, Miraculum.

The rest of the contenders

Best Original Screenplay:

The Captive, Atom Egoyan, David Fraser
In Her Place, Albert Shin, Pearl Ball-Harding
Maps to the Stars, Bruce Wagner
Mommy, Xavier Dolan
Tu Dors Nicole, Stéphane Lafleur

Will Win: Mommy
I’d vote for: Maps to the Stars
Shoulda been there: Wet Bum

Best Adapted Screenplay:

The Calling, Scott Abramovitch
Cast No Shadow, Joel Thomas Hynes
Elephant Song, Nicholas Billon

Will Win: Elephant Song
I’d vote for: The Calling

Best Documentary Feature:

Guidelines / Le Marches a suivre
Super Duper Alice Cooper

Will Win: Fermières
I’d vote for: Guidelines
Shoulda been there: I'll admit that this category doesn't really reflect what a strong year it was for Canadian documentaries. I'd swap in Everything Will Be and The Wanted 18, and where are Monsoon and Trick or Treaty?

Achievement in Cinematography for a Theatrical Documentary

Everything Will Be
The Sower

Will Win: Guidelines
I’d vote for: Everything Will Be
Shoulda been there: Monsoon

Achievement in Editing for a Feature Length Documentary:

Super Duper Alice Cooper

Will Win: Super Duper Alice Cooper
I’d vote for: Super
Shoulda been there: Trick or Treaty?

Best Animated Short:

Day 40
Improvisation No. 1: Cumulative Loops  (watch)

Will Win: Me and My Moulton
I’d vote for: Moulton (although I love Day 40 and Migration too)
Shoulda been there: The Weatherman and the Shadowboxer

Best Short Documentary:

The Chaperone 3D

Will Win: Seth's Dominion
I’d vote for: Jutra

Best Live Action Short:

The Cut
Petit Frère
Sleeping Giant 
Suivre la piste du renard

Will Win: Sleeping Giant
I’d vote for:  Haven't seen enough to say
Shoulda been there: Zero Recognition

Achievement in Art Direction / Production Design

Phillip Barker - The Captive
Xavier Georges - Cast No Shadow
William Layton - Fall
Colombe Raby - Mommy
Paul Austerberry, Nigel Churcher - Pompeii

Will Win: Pompeii
I’d vote for: Pompeii

Achievement in Costume Design

Valérie Levesque - 1987
Francesca Chamberland - Henri Henri
Xavier Dolan - Mommy
Wendy Partridge - Pompeii
Sarah Dunsworth - Trailer Park Boys - Don't Legalize It

Will Win: Pompeii
I’d vote for: Pompeii

Achievement in Cinematography

Norayr Kasper - Fall
Mathieu Laverdière - Henri Henri
Luc Montpellier - It Was You Charlie
Michel La Veaux - Meetings with a Young Poet
André Turpin - Mommy

Will Win: Mommy
I’d vote for: Mommy
Shoulda been there: Maps to the Stars, Wet Bum

Achievement in Editing

Sponsor | Commanditaire | The PostMan Post-Production Studios
Greg Ng – Afflicted
Arthur Tarnowski - Henri Henri
Albert Shin - In Her Place
Ron Sanders - Maps to the Stars
Xavier Dolan - Mommy

Will Win: Mommy
I’d vote for: Mommy

Achievement in Make-Up

Sponsor | Commanditaire | M●A●C Cosmetics
Virginie Boudreau - 1987
Lizane Lasalle - Henri Henri
Colleen Quinton - Meetings with a Young Poet
Maina Militza - Mommy
Amanda O'Leary - Trailer Park Boys - Don't Legalize It

Will Win: Mommy
I’d vote for: 1987
Shoulda been there: Maps to the Stars

Achievement in Music - Original Score

Jeffrey Morrow - Cast No Shadow
Dan Mangan, Jesse Zubot - Hector and the Search for Happiness
Patrick Lavoie - Henri Henri
Howard Shore - Maps to the Stars
Patrice Dubuc, Gaetan Gravel - Meetings with a Young Poet

Will Win: Maps to the Stars
I’d vote for: Maps to the Stars
Shoulda been there: Wet Bum, The Valley Below

Achievement in Music - Original Song

Sponsor | Commanditaire | Slaight Music
Ian LeFeuvre - Dirty Singles – “The Whisper in Me”
Manjeet Ral - Dr. Cabbie – “Dal Makhani”
Lewis Furey - Love Project – “Road to Rainbow’s End”
Patric Caird, Sonya Cote - Tru Love – “Danse Elegant”
Dan Mangan - The Valley Below – “Wants”

--> Listen to all the nominees here!

Will Win:"Wants"
I’d vote for: "Wants"?
Shoulda been there:  Stage Fright

Achievement in Overall Sound

Sponsor | Commanditaire | Deluxe Toronto
Christopher Guglick, Dave Mercel, Steve Moore, Justin Sawyer, Alex Turner - Bang Bang Baby
Christian Cooke, Michael O'Farrell, Orest Sushko - Maps to the Stars
Daniel Bisson, Gilles Corbeil, Bernard Gariépy Strobl - Meetings with a Young Poet
Sylvain Brassard, Jocelyn Caron, François Grenon, Luc Landry - Mommy
Greg Chapman, Peter Persaud, Andrew Stirk, Andrew Tay, Mark Zsifkovits - Pompeii

Will Win: Pompeii
I’d vote for: Mommy

Achievement in Sound Editing

Sponsor | Commanditaire | IMAX Corporation
Elma Bello - Fall
Christian Rivest - Henri Henri
Raymond Legault, Simon Meilleur, Martin Pinsonnault, Claire Pochon - Meetings with a Young Poet
Sylvain Brassard, Benoît Dame, Isabelle Favreau, Guy Francoeur - Mommy
Steve Baine, Kevin Banks, Stephen Barden, Fred Brennan, Alex Bullick, J.R. Fountain, Kevin Howard, Jill Purdy - Pompeii

Will Win: Pompeii
I’d vote for: Pompeii

Achievement in Visual Effects

Jason Dowdeswell, Neil Eskuri, Patti Gannon, Ivan Hayden, Neil Impey, Zach Lipovsky, James Rorick, Adele Venables - Afflicted
Keith Acheson, Dennis Berardi, Ayo Burgess, Naomi Foakes, Jo Hughes, Chris MacLean, Mohsen Mousavi, Scott Riopelle, Andy Robinson, Eric Robinson –Pompeii
Ian Britton, Robert Crowther, Steve Elliott, Oleksiy Golovchenko, Matt Philip, Jiang Shuming, Jay Stanners, Rob Tasker, Perunika Yorgova, Lexi Young - Wet Bum

Will Win: Pompeii
I’d vote for: Pompeii (sorry, Wet Bum!)

What are your #CdnScreen15 picks?

 The Canadian Screen Awards air on CBC Sunday, March 1 at 8:00pm